By Jessica Grey
Y’all. I can’t. I cannot. I have been rendered incapable of “can.”
Last week’s episode, with one exception, was really gratifying to watch and I spent all last week trying to anticipate how the show runners would follow up that kind of awesomeness. All I knew for sure, thanks to the trailer for this week’s installment, was that I was finally going to have the chance to use the term “corpse-cicles” again, which was exciting to me because I am a weirdo. While I do get to talk about corpse-cicles, the reason for that ended up being a hell of a sucker punch: the show runners are clearly emotional sadists and decided to follow up such an amazing high with a low so low that it rivals the Red Wedding in how traumatized I was walking away from the episode.
The episode opens in Castle Black as Sansa receives a raven from Baelish, who is waiting to meet her at Mole’s Town. When she arrives at Mole’s Town, though he looks none too pleased that she is accompanied by Brienne, Littlefinger starts being, well, Littlefinger and telling her how fearful he was for her and how relieved he is to see her unharmed. This, understandably, does not sit well with Sansa and she lays into him, letting him know that she is one hundred percent over his bullshit. He attempts an apology and insists that she must believe him that he wants nothing more than to protect her, to which she replies she doesn’t believe him, she doesn’t need him, and he can’t protect her. Ooooh! Tell him, grrrrl! Though, since he is Baelish, he pulls one last ace out of his sleeve: as he leaves, he tells Sansa that her great uncle, the Blackfish, has retaken River Run and she should go to him to secure an army that is loyal to her. When she responds that she has an army, Baelish does that Baelish-y thing and counters with, “your brother’s army. Your half-brother.” That dude just thrives off of sowing the seeds of doubt. Jerk.
Off in Braavos, the Waif continues to give Arya physical and emotional beat-downs: after making sure Arya leaves the session with another bloodied nose, she hatefully tosses out, “You’ll never be one of us, Lady Stark.” Jaqen tells Arya that the Waif has a point and explains that the first of Faceless Men weren’t born into the world as lords and ladies, but rather started among slaves. After the history lesson, he hands Arya a vial of poison and tells her the target, along with an ultimatum: she’s getting a second chance, but she won’t get another.
Arya goes to the theatre to scope out her target, an actress by the name of Lady Crane, who is in a production dramatizing the last few years of recent history in Westeros. Arya actually seems entertained by the production, until their buffoonish characterization of her father takes the stage and is later beheaded. She sneaks backstage after the show and finds the information needed to carry out her assignment.
North of the Wall, Bran and Three-Eyed Raven dude are warging back in time again through the eons to the creation of the White Walkers. Bran learns that the Children of the Forest made them. When the Three-Eyed Raven and his protégé snap back into the present moment, Leaf explains to Bran that they made the White Walkers to defend themselves from the First Men who were slaughtering the Children and razing their sacred trees.
On the Iron Islands, the kingsmoot is called into session. Yara stands before the assembled longboat captains and states her claim to the Salt Throne. When the men decide to be sexist jerks, insisting that they’ve never had a queen and why should they now that Balon’s last male heir has returned, Theon takes the metaphorical mic and assuages Yara’s completely justified anxiety about his intentions by declaring for her. It’s an awesome moment but then it gets completely ruined by Euron making his claim on the Salt Throne and being an ass about it. Euron ends up winning the vote and during his coronation, Theon and Yara make off with all the best ships left in the Iron Islands’ fleet.
Outside of Vaes Dothrak, Dany and her new khalasar-to-end-all-khalasars start making their way back toward Meereen, but not before confronting Jorah: she keeps banishing him, he keeps coming back and saving her life. So, she doesn’t feel she can rescind his banishment, but also doesn’t feel that she can continue it. Jorah reveals to her that he has contracted greyscale, saying that he must leave. Instead, she gives him a command: go find a cure for greyscale and come back to her. Meanwhile, Tyrion is trying to find a way to maintain Daenerys’ relevance in Meereen, to make sure she—and her advisors—get credit for the new, tentative peace in the city. He recruits Kinvara, one of the high ranking priestesses serving the Lord of Light to the cause.
Back in the cave north of the Wall, everyone is snoozing and Bran is bored out of his mind, so he decides to occupy himself by warging somewhere on his own. He ends up in front of an enormous army of wights; he picks his way through the corpse-cicle horde and finds four mounted White Walkers. Then the Night’s King turns to him—he can see Bran! And, now, so can the entire army of frosty undead. Then suddenly he’s standing next to Bran and—don’t let him touch you! Don’tlethim…dammit! Bran screams himself out of his warg state and the Three-Eyed Raven knows exactly what happened. Because the Night’s King left his mark on Bran, he can now enter the cave, so it is very much time for Bran and his crew to go. While Meera and Hodor start packing, the Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran that it is time for Bran to become the new Three-Eyed Raven. When Bran asks if he’s ready, Merlin-in-the-tree looks him dead in the eye: “No.”
Back at Castle Black, we join an in-progress meeting working out the strategy for retaking the North. While trying to navigate all the shifting loyalties among the former Stark bannermen, Sansa declares that she will ride with Jon Snow, she has the capital that comes with the Stark name; after all, the North remembers. She also tosses out the information about the Blackfish having retaken River Run. So, they come to a resolution: Sansa is heading out with Jon Snow, and Brienne is heading to River Run to talk to the Blackfish, though Brienne is uneasy about being separated from Sansa. When Sansa says that she trusts Jon to protect her, Brienne asks why, then, did Sansa lie to him about how she found out about Blackfish?
Back up at the cave, Meera and Hodor are preparing to get the hell out of Dodge, while the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran off in wargland. We get to see Hodor smile as Meera starts talking about the possibility of having some real food: eggs, rashers of bacon. Cherish that smile, because it all goes to shit from there.
While the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran are at past-Winterfell, Meera, Summer, and the Children are fighting of slews of incoming wight. Meera tries to wake Bran, but she can’t; he can, however, still hear her screaming, “Bran we need Hodor! Warg into Hodor!” The Three-Eyed Raven tells him to listen to his friend, so—even while staying there in past-Winterfell—he wargs into present-Hodor, who jumps into action and immediately starts pulling Bran and his sled out of there.
As they try to outrun the frosty horde, Summer sacrifices himself to give them more time to get out; the Night’s King kills the Three-Eyed Raven and Bran watches him disappear in the warg realm. And Leaf separates herself from the group to take out as many wight as she can. Then Hodor, Meera, and Bran encounter a heavy door, which Hodor manages to get open just in the nick of time to get them all out of the cave and try to push the door closed before the wight can breach it. Bran is still warged back in time—and into Hodor—and hears Meera screaming to Hodor, “Hold the door! Hold the door!” In past-Winterfell, Willas briefly looks at Bran, collapses, and starts seizing, repeating “hold the door” over and over again until it morphs into “hodor.” He does hold the door, even as the wight start breaking through parts of the door, stabbing at him.
Valar morghulis, indeed.
Welp. That was a bummer episode and, right now, I kind of hate everything. Everything, except this Torienne ship going on, so in an effort to end this on a less horrific note, I give you: